Part one of my interview with Jones Wood Foundry’s Jason Hicks covers the chef’s history, vision, and philosophy. Here in part two, he divulges tips for home cooks, reveals some of his favorite cooking tools, and names some of his favorite restaurants in the city.
Favorite item in your pantry or walk-in?
Suet. It adds a lot to dishes, especially pie doughs. It’s like adding fat to the sausage–it doesn’t change the flavor, but it changes the texture.
What’s the most underrated ingredient?
Salt. A lot of people don’t realize that salt is not flavor–it develops the flavor of different things. People who don’t how to use salt can’t realize the potential of the ingredient they’re using.
What’s the most underrated kitchen tool?
One that plays a role in almost every single dish: the cutting board. You couldn’t open without a cutting board. I’m a practical guy.
What brand of knife do you use and why?
Victorinox. It’s the knife I’ve always used. I don’t get into going into sushi shops and telling my friends that I spent $500 on a knife.
Are you partial to any of your spoons?
I’m not romantic about them or physically attached, but it’s very important to have the right one for the right job.
At what local bar or restaurant are you a regular?
I live in Westchester, so I like this proper American pub called Sherwood’s. It has burgers, ribs, and family stuff.
What’s the most underrated restaurant in New York City?
There are so many of them that I feel awkward doing an injustice to them by naming one. An example would have been Payard. It’s not open anymore, but it never really got the notoriety for being as good it was.
At what New York restaurant do you celebrate a special night out?
Daniel. I proposed to my wife there, and we had our first date there.
What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I have a sweet tooth. I can do some of those homemade chocolate chip cookes and eat them until they’re gone. I steal my kids’ candy.
What’s your favorite meal to cook at home?
I have a big house with open fires, so on most Sundays during the winter I do chickens on a rotisserie or legs of lamb. I do pheasants for Christmas.
What one tip would you offer an amateur cook looking to improve his or her cooking?
Keep things as simple as possible. Don’t over-complicate; focus on simplicity. That’s the biggest trick even for me.
What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now?
Bangers and mash.
What are your favorite local purveyors?
Myers of Keswick. I get the bangers from them. I used to make sausage as well, but I don’t anymore because I don’t make them as good as he does. I respect purveyors that sell less and know more. I’m working with a farmer in Massachusetts who has gooseberries. It’s the first time I’ve found them in America. I like getting into farming community and unearthing people by accident.
Favorite food-related item to give as a gift?
Here, we do things like mince pies at Christmastime. You can order them, pick them up at the bar warm in a box, and take them to a party. I also used to make terrines of foie gras and send that out to VIPs and friends.